Dorothy Humphreys Melvin was born in Glasgow in 1881. She trained at the Glasgow School of Cookery and was a member of its staff at the time of its amalgamation with The West End School of Cookery. On the 25th of July 1909 she tendered her resignation to take up a position at the National Society’s Training College, West Hampstead, London. She returned to Glasgow a year later and on the 25th of October 1910 took up the post of Superintendent and Office Secretary of the Glasgow and West of Scotland College of Domestic Science. This title was changed to Principal in April 1919.
Her job as Principal was mainly one of organisation. Initially there were about 6 subjects taught at the College, however by the end of Miss Melvin’s career this had increased to around 16 subjects.
Her role was central to the development and realisation of the new College premises at Park Drive, Glasgow, overseeing all areas of the planning, building and premises move.
Her work through two wars, showed not only that she was willing to support her country through the discipline of the College (especially in the areas of poor food supplies and economical cooking), but also that she managed to maintain the educational value of the College. She went on to offer training to the female casualties of the war years and the College trained many women for employment through difficult periods. She made the College an Institution that was aware of the needs of the community of Glasgow and the wider area of the West of Scotland.
Her educational and professional development again was exceptional. She was a member of the leading bodies in Domestic Science and she represented her subject with much public speaking and writing and was not afraid to fight for her beliefs. For her work in the College and for the general teaching of domestic subjects and the education of women in Glasgow and the West of Scotland, Dorothy Melvin was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the Coronation honours list of 1937. She was also a Justice of the Peace.
The Melvin Prize for Children’s Teaching was started in Session 1944/45. It was a prize for the Diploma student with the best children’s teaching mark. Prior to this there was a Dorothy H Melvin Scholarship. This was established under the will of Miss May J F Tolmie and the terms stated a scholarship of £30 was to be given to a student selected by the Governors and Miss Melvin. This continued into Queen’s College when the scholarship was awarded to a graduate of the College for post-diploma study which was approved by the Principal and the Governors.
Dorothy Melvin retired in December 1946 but maintained links with the College, often attending on Diploma Days. She died on the 26th of December 1963, in her home at “Oakdene”, 15 Sherbrooke Avenue, Pollokshields, Glasgow. Her death was reported in the Glasgow and Edinburgh press, in related journals of the day, and tribute was given to this great pioneer of women’s education and domestic science.